Google knows what you like. Google knows what you need. Vote Google.
Basically there won’t be any news out of Britain for the next three months, except endless guff and drilldowns about whether it should leave the European Union. The country decides once and for all on June 23 in a referendum. Until then, prepare for a giant posture-fest of politicos and opinioneers sifting and mulling and mooting and expending billions of words in an exercise of democracy so unpredictable there should be a giant Undo button installed in Parliament Square just in case.
More than anything, it’s a good chance to find out more about what membership actually involves, costs, and offers to the UK, and to gauge how fantastic we could be in the world without Europe telling us what to do all the time. To be fair, we’ve never been that enthusiastic about the whole project, but we have given it a good go.
This column puts its money on the UK staying in. Small-C conservativism will win in the end, and the alternative – being a lonesome independent country again, not to mention a cold, rain-soaked, wind-ravaged island – just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Even though we have the fifth largest economy in the world and culture galore, there is a legacy of prosperity to uphold and a duty to forge the most efficient relationships. Nobody in Britain likes the bureaucratic overload the EU puts our way, but the economic effects are the decider according to poll after poll – and the problem is, no-one can accurately predict what they’ll be.
In the event of a voting tie, a freshly-minted pound coin will be tossed above a manicured lawn and our fate will rest with God (although my grandfather used to say, if God meant us to have partners, He’d have had one.)
Your own rules
It might be better simply to start letting people opt in to whichever political system they prefer. The internet and electronic banking now make this possible. For domestic elections, rather than have half the country buckling under a way of life that annoys them, let each person follow the rules they approve.
Programmers could set up a system with choices across the party-political spectrum. And with the crucial caveat that all laws are mutually applicable. Then, once you vote, you can go about your life being a dedicated green, paying the relevant taxes, having your view represented in parliament, while your neighbour could do the same under her true-blue nationalist flag.
The theory weakens for big ticket policies and international affairs where more consistency is needed, but proportional representation makes a leap forward.
And much greater flexibility is possible. Voting need not be once every few years. Why not make it a weekly or daily affair on a raft of issues with a click of a mouse or the remote control?
Topic of the day
Following the evening news there could be a voting slot for topics of the day. Log in, verify, click Yay, Nay or Abstain. Voter preferences could then percolate upwards to those larger issues.
Of course there are security issues. Your vote might be hacked by viruses, bots, pre-encryption malware. The list is endless, as perhaps is the fear-mongering by those who’d like things to stay as they are.
In Australia, voting is compulsory, but globally this is a minority setup: in all, only 23 countries do the same.
For the rest, low turnout is a problem. (94% voted in the last Australian federal election, versus 65% in the UK’s 2010 general election and 55% in the 2012 US presidential election.)
And logically, it’s confusing – how is it democratic to be forced to vote democratically? Many Aussies respond by spoiling their slips: 6% of the total votes cast in the 2010 election were blank or improperly filled in. (Legally, you must attend a polling station but you may leave without ticking off any names.)
Perhaps a well-designed, friendly and easy-to-use e-system would bridge the gap by getting more people to engage.
And maybe such a system is within reach using our very own new best friend and everyone’s Big Brother: Google.
Google knows things about us only God and our mums do. It records our searches, our purchases, our whereabouts, our social circles, on and on, in retrievable, minute data. In the wrong hands, mad hands, this information could be used to organise society with levels of individual precision never seen before. Your abilities, wants and needs could be meticulously calculated, as well as all your neighbours, and interweaved by algorithms of give and take that spin us towards democratic perfection. Googlism.
Maybe voting will become a thing of the past, tainted as it is by our pesky consciences and fluctuating mindsets. Instead, the same computer power that links us all will figure out who we want in power, precisely and fairly. Let’s just trust it’s a person that’s elected, and not itself.
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